Dip in support from core constituencies hurt BJP-Sena in Maharashtra
With Shiv Sena trying to install its own chief minister in Maharashtra, politics in the western state has taken an interesting turn. Though it fought the state elections in alliance with BJP, the Sena is now sports gambling on support from rivals NCP and Congress to keep Devendra Fadnavis out of power.
Incidentally, the BJP with 105 seats is the single largest party in the 288-member house. The Sena with 56 seats can easily take the NDA tally past the halfway mark of 145. On the other hand, a resurgent NCP saw its seat share (54) overtaking that of ally Congress (44).
Political analysts, however, were a bit surprised with the results. Just five months before, the BJP-Sena combine had won 41 out 48 seats in Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha elections, polling 51 per cent votes. The NCP-Congress alliance won only five seats, polling 32 per cent votes.
If the Lok Sabha election results mirrored that of assembly polls as well, which many political experts were hoping, the BJP-Sena combine was expected to win more than two-third seats. But in the assembly elections last month, the NDA’s vote share dipped by 9 per cent.
Significantly, the NCP-Congress did not gain from BJP-Sena’s loss of votes; the biggest gainers in the elections were smaller parties and Independents. Over the last few years, the vote share of smaller parties and Independents was on the decline and these votes were shifting to the BJP in most states. However, Maharashtra has reversed the trend.
So whose vote did the BJP-Sena lose exactly?
Change in support base
To analyse the change in support base for the BJP-Sena from Lok Sabha to assembly elections, we used community-specific Axis My India post-poll survey data. Though the BJP-Sena combine pulled off the majority number despite loss in vote share, it witnessed a decline in support from many crucial social groups. Some of these groups have been ardent supporters of the NDA in past elections; exactly why it’s a worrying trend for the saffron alliance.
The Axis My India survey shows that the BJP-Sena lost votes from its core and numerically significant constituencies of young, middle class and OBCs in Maharashtra.
Among OBCs, the BJP-Sena combine lost 18 per cent votes from the Lok Sabha election. This is double the average of 9 per cent votes the alliance lost in the assembly election. OBCs constitute 25-28 per cent of the population in Maharashtra and are traditional supporters of the BJP-Sena.
The decline in support among the middle-income group is also significant. According to Axis My India survey, the sample data of respondents from this group (monthly income from Rs 11,000-30,000) constitute around 26 per cent. The lower-income group (monthly income from Rs 6,000-10,000) constitutes around 43 per cent of the sample data and among them, the decline in support is 10 per cent.
Change in trends
Another significant picture emerged from demography-wise vote share change among different social groups. The Axis My India survey suggests that the BJP-Sena alliance was less vulnerable among groups that were not its traditional voters. There could be a possibility that it was due to these groups that they had the last laugh in this election.
For example, among the poor (BPL), the decline in vote share for the BJP-Sena from the Lok Sabha election was much less than the average decline. In the Axis My India survey, this group constituted 28 per cent of the total sample, and among them, the BJP-Sena lost just 5 per cent votes. Similarly, elderly voters backed the BJP-Sena more than their younger counterparts.
What it suggests is that there could be some kind of changes in the established pattern in Indian electoral politics. As seen in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, voters preferred the Congress in their state last year, but backed the BJP at the Centre barely months later. Haryana, where the BJP won all 10 Lok Sabha seats in May, failed to cross the majority mark in the assembly elections in October.
But it remains to be seen whether this political churning represents a new awakening among India’s electorate.